Due to gravity, solids in slurries will settle if density differences between the solids and liquid are positive (i.e., particle has a negative buoyant force) unless rheological properties and flow conditions are adequate to overcome the gravitational effects. The rate of settling depends on the force balance of the particle, which includes the surface forces associated with fluid rheology. Given the same fluid and solid properties, the larger and more dense particles tend to settle faster. When pumping slurry into a vessel at concentrations precluding hindered settling with insufficient mixing, particle and density distributions can result in preferential settling, creating stratification in the solids concentration within the vessel.
For vessels with transfer line inlets located in the lower portion of the tank, the stratified solids concentration may be detrimental to the transfer system performance. Elevated concentrations of solids in the slurry entrained at the inlet to the transfer line can result in the effective viscosity or slurry bulk density exceeding the design limits of the pump. These conditions could result in plugging of the transfer line or onset of cavitation of the pumps because of excessive pressure drop.
These conditions can be exacerbated with periodic inlet conditions existing at the transfer line inlet. Periodic conditions can result when vessel mixing is intermittent such as with pulsed jet mixers (PJM). The transfer line inlet conditions are impacted by the periodic nature of the PJM operations with respect to suspension of solids and their transport to the inlet of the transfer line. A scaling approach is presented, and corresponding test requirements are developed for assessing the prevention of plugging the pipeline. Line plugging mechanisms are addressed that exclude plugging due to steady-state high-density slurry entering the transfer line and reducing the net positive suction head available (NPSHA) at the pump inlet to below that required for pump operation. Items considered include the transition to reduced relative flow velocities, such that the critical pipe velocity for solids deposition, Ucd, is not maintained, and segregation of heavy solids during the transport. The recommended requirements to prevent plugging include:
• Limits for viscosity and density for entrained slurry to prevent the pressure drop in the pipeline from exceeding pump capacity.
• Limits for viscosity and density for entrained slurry to prevent the net positive suction head available (NPSHA) from falling below the net positive suction head required (NPSHR) for operating the pump.
• Transfer line velocity and flow rate requirements to maintain solids in suspension, while avoiding line plugging that results from deposition of solids within the transfer line.
This paper describes the development of the scaling and testing requirements to verify that proposed approaches for transfer and pump out are appropriately developed for operational success within the plant operating windows.